Honours for Lismore man, the first ashore at Gallipoli
BEING the first ashore at Gallipoli was no enviable task, but someone had to do it.
By chance, or destiny, that heroic, sacrificial role fell to Lismore's own, Joseph Stratford.
On the morning of April 25, 1915, eye-witness accounts described Stratford plunging into waist-deep water from his landing boat, abandoning his pack to charge up the beach with rifle and bayonet.
Less than an hour later he was dead, having stormed a Turkish machine gun post single-handedly, "only to fall riddled with bullets".
Stratford's achievement has been eulogised locally and mentioned in Australian War Memorial archives, but never officially recognised. Almost a century later, his memory will finally be honoured with a plaque to be unveiled on Sunday at the Lismore Uniting Church.
Born at Coffee Camp near Nimbin in 1883, Joseph Henry Stratford was the fifth child in a family of 11. When 23 he left Lismore for the North Queensland canefields and enlisted in the AIF in 1914. Promoted to sergeant, he was a natural leader and likely candidate to lead such a brave assault. Yet establishing an official record of exactly who was first ashore at Anzac Cove has always proved impossible. Many drowned or were shot before setting foot on the beach, while those who made it to shore were scattered and in disarray.
But several eye-witness letters and verbal accounts mentioning Stratford as the first ashore make the case worthy of official consideration. Great-nephew Colin Stratford, 85, said "it was only ever discussed in the family" - but common knowledge all the same. He believed there was enough evidence that Stratford should be recognised as the first man ashore.
A formal service will be held at 8.30am today at the Lismore Uniting Church to officially unveil the plaque in Stratford'shonour.